Following are opinions from Mille Lacs County Times editor-sports editor Gary Larson, reporter Luther Dorr, former Times intern Logan Marxhausen and sports fan Ben Johnson. Note: This feature is written on Monday each week.
•Question: Right-handed Minnesota Twins pitching prospect Kyle Gibson has been called up and is slated to start against Kansas City Saturday afternoon at Target Field Gibson is regarded as the team’s future “gem” on the mound. The Twins have been calling their 2013 team a contender in the Central Division. The team was 34-38 and seven games behind first-place Detroit heading in a two-game series at Miami. So far, the 2013 season has included many lineup changes as players have been called up from the minors and sent down. Is this season actually a “rebuilding” year?
-Dorr: You can look at it as a year where the Twins are very unlikely to win the division so calling it a rebuilding year is favored by some. I’d rather call it a year of trying to be competitive, all the while finding out if some of the younger players are ready to contribute on a regular basis. A guy like Oswaldo Arcia is making a case for being in the starting lineup and some of other younger guys like Pedro Florimon, Brian Dozier, Trevor Plouffe. Aaron Hicks and Chris Parmelee, as well as a couple of the younger pitchers, are making their bid to hang around. Every time the team gets close to .500, as it did with a sweep of Chicago last week, they seem to go in the tank for a few games. Finishing at .500 would be a good season. That would be a good start toward rebuilding.
-Marxhausen: Can a rebuilding year and being a contender for the playoffs take place in the same year? With the Twins there is hope, although it may be slim, it is still the hope that keeps the team fighting to stay out of the bottom of the division. If it were like the past two seasons, many fans would have given up by now and many seats at Target Field would be empty. The Twins are not the Tigers or the Yankees or the Red Sox. They are not going to be considered a true contender with the lack of talent that makes up their everyday lineup. Mathematically speaking, the Twins are a contender, but they have not been able to string enough wins in a row to make them a legitimate contender.
-Larson: It’s a rebuilding season despite the team’s hype that it isn’t. Smart fans know that. The Twins have been more entertaining and interesting than in 2011 and 2012 but that didn’t take much.
-Johnson: Regardless of their record, the Twins have had so many different faces on the mound and in the lineup that you would have to consider it a rebuilding year. Gibson will be the ninth starter and the rotation is still changing this far into the season. The lineup has not been the same three days in a row and they still do not have a lineup they can call their “playoff team.” Although their record is respectable, I still don’t think it truly represents the team they are. Houston and Chicago are the only teams I would be confident in saying the Twins can beat in the American League. Their record gives fans and management a false sense of hope for 2013. It also is directing their attention away from possible moves in the market that could benefit them next year and years to come.
•Question: How excited are you to see Gibson make his Major League debut?
-Dorr: Excited might not be the right word but I’m definitely interested. I remember when he was drafted and I had high hopes for a good college pitcher, even though he had some arm problems there also. And when he got hurt as a pitcher in the Minnesota system, I could see a draft choice with high expectations going down the drain. But he’s worked hard and the Twins, who have listened to fans clamoring for Gibson to be on the roster all season, decided to bring him up. Remember this – he’s 7-5 in AAA ball with a 3.01 ERA. That’s not bad but it’s not great. He has been good in recent starts and thus the call-up. Don’t expect a lights-out performance like the Mets are getting from their two young starters. I’m just hoping he can pitch well enough the rest of the season, or however long he’s here, to be ready for 2014.
-Marxhausen: I am excited and then again, I am not excited. The former first round draft pick out of the University of Missouri in 2009 is making his debut as a Twin as Mike Pelfrey hits the 15-day disabled list. The Twins have used Pedro Hernandez, Samuel Deduno and P.J. Walters from Triple-A Rochester before Gibson this season because he still is in recovery mode following Tommy John surgery back in 2011. In his return last summer he was 7-5, with a 3.01 earned-run-average in 15 starts, including two shutouts. His opponents compiled a .229 batting average against him and finished with a 70/28 strikeouts-per-walks ratio in 92 and two-thirds innings. His first start will be against James Shields and Kansas City. I hope the Twins’ batters, ranked 20th in batting average, can help the young pitcher out in his debut.
-Larson: We’ve heard about Gibson’s promise for what seems like a very long time, so I’m somewhat excited to see him. Twins fans are likely pumped up to see the team’s top pitching prospect. I wish the young guy well – the Twins desperately need someone to take the lead in the starting rotation.
-Johnson: I have heard that Gibson has the presence of Brad Radke. I grew up watching Radke and I had mixed feelings about him. I always admired those pitchers who had nasty stuff and could strike people out. The pitchers who could throw no-hitters and shut the best lineups in baseball down, such as former Twins Johan Santana and Francisco Liriano (when he threw strikes). Radke went about his business quietly and had a great career for the Twins but he only won 20 games once, never got close to 200 strikeouts in a season, and never led the team deep into the playoffs. I hope that Gibson’s pitches are more electric than Radke’s were. There are also few pitchers that have come back from Tommy John surgery and had long successful careers. I hope Gibson is one of these few.
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